COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is urging South Carolinians to avoid large group gatherings for the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
The agency says residents should make “safe, responsible plans” for celebrating that include precautions to protect against the spread of COVID-19.
“More and more of South Carolina’s positive cases are individuals who participated in group gatherings without keeping a safe distance from others or wearing masks,” DHEC officials said in a release.
The number of new positive cases in a day are the highest they’ve ever been, as is the number of people currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 complications, which is currently more than 1,000, the agency said. They blame a lack of social distancing and mask-wearing as contributing to the state’s escalating numbers.
“The virus is rapidly spreading across the state, with some of the largest increases in our coastal communities,” DHEC Public Health Director Dr. Joan Duwve said. “We’ve all given so much for so long, and we all want to be at our beautiful beaches, at our parks, our friends’ houses, our block parties and community events but I’m asking all of us to stay vigilant in the fight against this deadly virus. While we celebrate our country’s birthday, please help your communities, especially those who are at increased risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death. If we all pledge to wear our face masks, stay six feet apart, and wash our hands often, together we will reduce the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. That’s how we ‘Stay SC Strong.’”
Young people are increasingly testing positive for the virus as South Carolina has seen a 966% increase in newly reported cases among those aged 11 to 20 and 413% increase in those between 21-30, the release states.
DHEC says it supports the many local governments and event organizers who have chosen to cancel group activities across the state in order to protect their communities from the virus, and the agency recommends families instead celebrate the Fourth of July by planning home-based festivities and watching fireworks shows while remaining in their vehicles or tuning into celebrations virtually.
While shopping for groceries and other necessities, DHEC officials remind residents to wear a mask or cloth face covering, stay six feet away from others and immediately clean their hands with sanitizer or soap and water after arriving home. Individuals who are ill should stay home.
“In addition to the disheartening increases in young people transmitting the virus to their family and friends, new data indicate that asymptomatic people can spread the virus more easily than initially thought,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said. “If you’ve tested positive but don’t have symptoms, it’s imperative that you complete your quarantine period in order to not spread the virus to others while you’re contagious.”
Several local governments in the state have begun requiring face masks for anyone in public. Residents and businesses should be mindful of these and any other local policies currently in place for protecting communities from further spread.